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Resident physicians’ union petitions UC president to address low pay, long hours

UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center is pictured. The Committee of Interns and Residents, which represents trainee physicians across the University of California system, delivered a petition to UC President Drake on Sept. 29. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Annie Sun

Oct. 17, 2022 12:40 a.m.

Correction: The original version of this article and its headline incorrectly referred to the physicians involved in the Committee of Interns and Residents as student doctors. In fact, they are resident physicians.

This post was updated Nov. 17 at 7:08 p.m.

The Committee of Interns and Residents sent a petition to the University of California’s president on Sept. 29 to address the negotiation process for a new contract.

According to the committee, the petition also aims to bring attention to the 1UC campaign, which was created as a result of issues exacerbated by the pandemic and advocates for systemic changes for health care workers. The petition was signed by more than 2,500 physicians across the UC Hospital System.

In addition to being overworked during the pandemic, residents have to face increased living costs, student debt, and racial and economic inequalities within the health care system, according to the committee.

Kelley Butler, a second-year resident in family and community medicine at UC San Francisco, said the petition aims to emphasize the range of issues facing UC health care workers and show strength in the amount of people who support the campaign. Demands the petition advocates for include increased wages, parental leave and protection for resident physicians’ time, she added.

“We exist, live and work in cities that are some of the most expensive in the world,” Butler said. “It shouldn’t be too much of an ask for the cost of living to match what we are in, especially considering the sacrifice that we’ve made to enter this profession – especially considering that if no resident or fellow showed up tomorrow, the system would crumble.”

A UCLA Health spokesperson said in an emailed statement that resident physicians are critical to patient care and that they look forward to negotiating with the union on a new contract. The UC Office of the President agreed and added in an emailed statement that discussions with the CIR are ongoing at UC hospital locations and have reached a number of resolutions.

“The fact that we have to create protections around being able to work more than 80 hours a week, the fact that that’s seen as an acceptable maximum, is a problem,” Butler said.

There had been a previous contract for UCLA signed in recent years in which the UC addressed compensation issues and work hours, but the time has come to renegotiate the contract to better address current concerns, said Reza Hassabi, a third-year emergency medicine resident at UCLA.

The pandemic has exacerbated unfair working conditions, increasing reliance on residents and other health care workers. Although the state of California implemented hazard pay – pay for physically difficult work – members of the CIR had to fight and lobby for it, Butler said.

“In order to advocate the best that I can for my patients, I also have to advocate to take care of us, the residents,” Hassabi said.

Although resident physicians are advocating for better working conditions, Butler said they are not letting current conditions limit their standard of care.

“None of this advocacy or none of this action is meant to undercut the ways in which we provide care to patients,” she said. “I still think that we deliver excellent care, despite the conditions we’re placed under, despite our work constraints, despite our work hours.”

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